my own worst enemy

I have a date planned today with someone I met online. I have vowed to keep an open mind, enjoy meeting new people, focus on how I feel when I’m with a man and, ultimately, make better relationship choices. I actually met this fellow for coffee a couple of weeks ago (working around our respective parenting schedules) and we enjoyed each other enough to agree to meet again.

As I go into this date, I am trying to be open to the possibility that I might allow myself to truly enjoy getting to know someone new — no artificial barriers, no comparisons to other men. I have vowed to enjoy dating. Yet I feel the old patterns trying to work their way back. Let me elaborate:

As a Libra, I’m born to partner. I enjoy the sharing and closeness of being in a relationship. I fall quickly and easily, and I feel natural and at ease in the throes of infatuation with a mate. I love falling in love — so much so that one might say I’m in love with being in love. This astrological affectation can also cause a girl to lose herself in the role of girlfriend / wife / lover.

Thus, I’ve been on a relationship treadmill pretty much since high school, from boyfriend to boyfriend, rarely spending enough time enjoying myself to know what I really want or how to express myself authentically in a relationship. The most alone time I’ve ever had was in my marriage — that’s when I figured out who I am, grew strong and realized that the kind of relationship I desire was vastly different from what I had.

When I wasn’t in a relationship, I was crushing hard on someone. Usually someone unavailable…look at Max, for example. Max, married and miles away, was part mad crush, part obsession and probably the perfect fantasy for someone half in and half out of a marriage. He affirmed my strength and renewed my hope that I could find love again. And, not so long after I let the idea of him go, I found someone else — another unavailable man, another long-distance object of my affection — to fill the gap.

I mentioned my current “high water mark” earlier. Most days, I find myself bemused by our flirtatious friendship; it just feels good to have a crush! Other days, I find myself a bit too married to the idea of exploring the energy between us and closed to the possibility that my ultimate life mate might be someone else. Part of me wants to cling to the thought that maybe someday, we might share something truly special. Because it feels somehow safe to think that way. Yet I’ve begun to see how I’m using this hope, this fantasy, as a defensive tactic to prevent me from getting close to anyone new, anyone real, anyone who’s actually here and available and wants to get to know me. He has become an emotional surrogate, an imaginary boyfriend, to whom I unconsciously pledged my faithfulness to prevent myself from letting anyone else in. For the second time in my life, I’m seeing a part of myself that would rather hold out for a fantasy than allow me to risk finding something real, and this realization scares the shit out of me!

I keep telling myself that my high water mark embodies all those qualities I want to find in a partner, but I don’t actually know him that well. This is to say that, while he may indeed have every single characteristic on my list, I haven’t been around him enough to witness or experience those things. And I also tell myself that I’m open to the universe bringing me all those wonderful qualities and more in a partner. But is being open to [insert guy’s name here]+more the same as being open to true possibility? I think not. I’m not truly detached to the outcome. So I’m likely to compare every new man I meet or date to this other guy, rather than measuring him on his own merits and what I experience with him.

Heartbreak creates the illusion that there are two paths to choose from:  on one hand, there’s the fear of being alone; on the other, the fear of setting one’s heart free to love again, to be vulnerable, to let someone in. But I see now that this is a false choice.

My path forward will be to revel in the happiness that can only come from loving myself. And I will cultivate courage, learn to lower my defenses and allow someone entirely new to see me authentically. For perhaps the first time in my life, I’m going to open myself to genuine possibility.

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About failedatforty


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